Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws in the pocket against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes a touchdown catch against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Indianapolis Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson (31) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) to end the Titans' final drive in the final seconds of the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) flips as he is hit by Indianapolis Colts defenders including Clayton Geathers (26) and Pierre Desir (35) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II understands this week's challenge each time he pops in an Atlanta Falcons tape.
He sees quarterback Matt Ryan, the 2016 league MVP, adjusting on the fly to new wrinkles posed by defensive coordinators. He sees Julio Jones , the fast, physical two-time All-Pro receiver, and the emerging Calvin Ridley, who posted his second career 100-yard game last weekend, stressing secondaries. He sees Mohamed Sanu, the perfect complementary piece to Atlanta's home-run hitters, and tight end Austin Hooper exposing the middle of the field.
It helps Moore recognize what he and his teammates must do to keep Ryan and his receivers under control Sunday.
''They're very talented, very crafty receivers,'' Moore said. ''Everybody knows what Julio brings to the table. We just have to be on point.''
For Moore and most of Indy's young defense, game tapes are all they have. Only six players have ever faced Ryan up close and personal, and safety Clayton Geathers is the only one in the Colts' back seven to experience it.
Moore recognizes it may take a few series to adapt to the Falcons' potentially high-scoring offense at game speed.
But that's only one potential problem for the Colts (1-1). They could be short-handed, too.
All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard spent this week in the concussion protocol. Indy's top cornerback, Pierre Desir, was limited in practice by a bruised right knee. Starting defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who has played Ryan twice including in New England's fifth Super Bowl win, returned for a light practice Wednesday after missing eight weeks with a knee injury.
If the defense can't slow down Falcons receivers, there could be other options.
Indy could rely on its suddenly strong ground game to control the clock. The Colts could use a vastly improved pass rush to make Ryan uncomfortable as they did the last two weeks with Phillip Rivers and Marcus Mariota. Or, perhaps they'll take advantage of the Falcons' biggest early season bugaboo: turnovers.
After throwing seven interceptions all of last season, Ryan already has five this year, including two in the red zone.
''It's not the start you want, but it's like that sometimes,'' said Ryan, now in his 11th season. ''You've just got to weather the storm and keep making good decisions and be aggressive.''
And keep finding Jones and Ridley, Sanu and Hooper.
''It's going to be a big test,'' Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson said. ''We just have to make sure we're staying on our details, making sure our techniques are on point and don't walk past any mistakes.''
With Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning both retired, the Colts have taken advantage of a run-first philosophy that's reflected in fashionably impressive numbers.
Indy and Minnesota are tied for second this season in yards rushing, Marlon Mack ranks No. 3 among all runners and Indy's 370 yards are the franchise's highest for two games to start a season since 1971. Equally strange is the fact Indy ranks No. 32 in passing offense.
Nobody minds. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson keeps a hat with the phrase ''Run The Damn Ball'' in his locker and quarterback Jacoby Brisset t appreciates the impact the running game has had.
''Our guys up front sense that and they like when that happens,'' Brissett said when asked about seeing defenses wearing down. "They ask for more runs, so they get more runs.''
The Falcons, in contrast, are 28th in rushing at 65 yards per game. Devonta Freeman has only 41 yards with no run longer than 9. Freeman looked quick early in last week's win over the Eagles when he had three carries for 18 yards in Atlanta's first five plays. But after he was tackled for losses twice, Atlanta changed course.
Injuries, which derailed Freeman last season, don't seem to be the problem, either.
''He showed the speed, the burst, the finish,'' coach Bob Quinn said. ''He looked stronger in a lot of ways.''
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
Indy returns to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since Aug. 24, when fans booed as Andrew Luck left the field before announcing his retirement.
Players acknowledge it will seem strange without Luck on the sideline or field.
''I hadn't really thought about that but it will be different,'' longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. ''I think it will be a good atmosphere, I think it will be rockin'.''
The Falcons may make a late decision on the status of punter Matt Bosher, who strained his groin in warmups before last week's game. Atlanta signed Matt Wile to the practice squad as a possible backup on punts and kickoffs.
Matt Bryant handled kickoffs last week. Wile was with Minnesota in 2018 and Atlanta briefly in 2016.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is not a great starting option for Week 7. The Eagles hit the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys and their strong pass defense on Sunday Night Football. Agholor managed to catch four of his seven targets in Week 6, but caught only one pass in Weeks 4 and 5. He simply does not possess NFL-level hands and will always battle with drops and fumbles. The Eagles passing game will likely run through Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, leaving Agholor far behind.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins is not a fantasy option in Week 7. The Eagles will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and even if DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is forced to miss another game, Hollins will only play a bit role. Hollins saw seven targets in Week 3, but has seen just five total targets since then. He's playing plenty of snaps in three-wide sets, but just isn't seeing much of the ball going his way. He's droppable in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has not seen a pass thrown his way since Week 3. The hyped rookie saw four targets in Week 2 and three in Week 3, but hasn't seen any since then. He's been mostly working on special teams even without DeSean Jackson (abdomen) available on offense. The Eagles have been rolling with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins in three-wide sets, and that's not likely to change any time soon. Arcega-Whiteside is a dynasty hold for sure, but seems unlikely to develop much redraft value this season.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) were both full participants in practice on Wednesday. Barkley and Engram are both on track to return for a mouthwatering Week 7 matchup against the Cardinals. Barkley's owners have to be ecstatic that he will wind up missing just two games after suffering a mild high right ankle sprain. Barkley and Engram will be high-end fantasy options at their respective positions this weekend. The Cardinals allow the most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. The return of both players should also boost rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' appeal as a QB streamer.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Devin Smith could be back in the starting lineup for a key Week 7 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) both questionable at best for Sunday Night Football, Smith could play the biggest role he's played all season against an Eagles pass defense that barely exists. Smith, as usual, will be a boom-or-bust play in fantasy, but could be a solid DFS value if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson could be elevated to a starting role on Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. With wide receivers Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday's matchup, the Cowboys could be forced to roll with Michael Gallup, Devin Smith, and Wilson in three-wide sets. Wilson appeared out of nowhere onto the Cowboys box score in Week 6, catching five passes for 48 yards. He'll get an easy Eagles secondary to contend with, so Wilson could be a near zero-cost moderate upside value in DFS leagues this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin could have a legitimate role on offense in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles and their porous, generous pass defense. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday night, Austin should see more snaps than usual. He somehow led the Cowboys in receiving last week, catching five passes for 64 yards. He's not a huge-upside play, but could end up as a decent bye week filler if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should have another solid performance in Week 7 despite a tough matchup. DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable at best for Sunday and would likely be limited even if he were able to play, making Jeffery once again the top target in the passing game. The Cowboys defend well against the pass, but the Eagles will have to move the ball and Jeffery will likely be the one to do it. He's been solid this season although he hasn't shown a ton of upside. He's settled in as an every-week WR2.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (thigh) and Randall Cobb (back) will not practice on Wednesday. Offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (back) also aren't practicing. Consider all of them questionable to play on Sunday night in a big divisional showdown against the Eagles. Cooper was in serious pain after the Week 6 loss to the Jets and is in serious danger of sitting out this weekend. With Cobb also banged up and sitting out on Sunday, the Cowboys could be looking at three-wide sets of Michael Gallup, Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson against the Eagles beatable secondary.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup should see an increased role in Week 7 and has a good matchup to exploit. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles and their struggling pass defense. Gallup could be playing as the top receiving option as Amari Cooper (quad) is not a sure thing for Sunday. With Gallup likely running as the top target through the air, he'll be a low-end WR1 if Cooper is out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard could struggle in Week 7. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a battle for first place, and Howard will face off against a tough Dallas run defense. While he has become the head of the Philly backfield, Howard is still a zero in the passing game, limiting his upside to touchdowns. He's right on the RB2/3 border, but his goal line role will always give him some upside in any matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders is not an exciting choice for a Week 7 fantasy lineup. Sanders is playing passing downs behind early-down lead back Jordan Howard and isn't doing much in the red zone, severely limiting his upside. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on a strong Cowboys Defense and could have some trouble moving the ball. Sanders shapes up as an unexciting RB3 with not too much upside for the Sunday Night Football contest.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced on Wednesday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start over Josh Rosen in Week 7 against the Bills. Rosen failed against the Redskins in Week 6 and was benched in favor of the veteran late in the game. Fitzpatrick has had his ups and downs this year. He likely gives Miami a better chance to win in the short term, but he'll be an unappealing QB2 in a terrifying matchup against Buffalo's strong defense on the road this Sunday.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) will practice in full on Wednesday. It looks like Singletary will return to action in Week 7 against the Dolphins after resting up during the bye week. The 22-year-old rookie has just 10 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown in two games this year and hasn't played since Sept. 15. Even if he's active in a great matchup with Miami, Singletary will be a low-end RB3/flex that should continue to play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore in the backfield.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will face a difficult challenge in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a winner-takes-first-place-for-now battle on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles Defense has essentially been non-existent against the pass but has actually been very strong against the run. Elliott should still put up numbers, especially since he can play a role in the passing game if necessary, but his upside could be a little limited. He's absolutely an RB1 as always, but he's more top-five than top-two for this week.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg), who suffered a gruesome leg injury in November of last year, said he wound up having 17 surgeries on his right leg. Smith developed an infection following an operation to fix the broken fibula and tibia he suffered against the Texans. The 35-year-old recently resumed throwing and hopes to return to the field again eventually, but it's a long shot that he'll be back in 2019. The fact that Smith has made it this far is even a minor miracle, and there's no guarantee he'll play another down in the NFL again. The 'Skins will move forward with Case Keenum under center for another week after getting their first win against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard won't likely have too big of a role in Week 7. The Cowboys will welcome the Eagles into town for Sunday Night Football, and starter Ezekiel Elliott will almost certainly see a monster workload in what should be a close game. Pollard remains a handcuff with league-winning upside, but his own value is completely game flow dependent and too difficult to predict.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is set up well for a strong performance on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles in what should be one of the better games of the week. The Eagles Defense has been awful at limiting opposing quarterbacks, so Prescott has a chance to go off this week to make up for the losses that are starting to pile up. He may be without his top receiver though, as Amari Cooper is recovering from a thigh bruise that forced him to make an early exit in the loss against the Jets. Still, Prescott is a solid mid-range QB1 for the first-place matchup against the Eagles.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) said he is doing well and is "on track," but he will not practice on Wednesday. Jackson will instead run on a side field on Wednesday. The Eagles are optimistic that D-Jax can return on Sunday night against the Cowboys in Week 7, but it's not a certainty. The Eagles desperately need the return of their deep threat, and quarterback Carson Wentz's fantasy stock would receive a big boost if Jackson returns. As of now, though, he's a risky fantasy option this weekend with the game being on Sunday night. If Jackson misses another game, it'll be Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins remaining in three-wide sets.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that left tackle Jason Peters (knee) is "week-to-week." Peters, 37, injured his knee in the Week 6 loss to the Vikings. Rookie first-rounder Andre Dillard will likely slide into the starting lineup and protect quarterback Carson Wentz's blind side, beginning on Sunday night in Week 7 against the Cowboys in a big divisional tilt. The move to Dillard might not necessarily be a downgrade, but it's something to watch moving forward.